This introductory chapter discusses the book's main themes. The book tells the story of oil, globalization, and terrorism, or what is referred to as the petroleum triangle. It is a story in which powerful presidents from Jimmy Carter to George W. Bush have been tarnished; in which dictators from the Shah of Iran to Iraq's President Saddam Hussein have fallen; in which countries have been impacted significantly by the effects and allure of oil wealth; and in which citizens and soldiers have been killed by the thousands in wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Within this story of oil, globalization, and terror, the book explores a primary puzzle: how did a small band of terrorists become such a real and perceived threat to global security? It stresses the difference between a “real” and “perceived” threat, because Al-Qaeda has become both a real threat based on its actual capabilities to do harm, and a perceived threat based on the fear that it has sowed, up and beyond its real capabilities.
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